Three things have been crystal clear during this entire health reform debate:
a) President Obama will sign a bill at some point
b) He'll make serious compromises to do so
c) Many people will be dismayed by (a), (b), or both
Perhaps the anti-reform forces will manage to thwart a bill, but I doubt it. This speech marks the beginning of Obama's end game, and look for him to build momentum in the coming days.
As this process has progressed, we've learned many sobering lessons: that the rightwing noise machine is alive and well; that old media can hold its own against new media; and that the Democratic majority is tenuous.
But most importantly, we've learned that conservatives are more eager to make war than to provide health coverage for all Americans.
The clip of Rep. Joe Wilson (R - S.C.) calling the president a liar will no doubt be played incessantly. It encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the Limbaugh-Beck-Hannity-Coulter-Cheney-Bush wing of the Republican Party: ready and willing to send our troops to battle, but unwilling to work with Democrats to address the big issues facing our country and our world.
We're all focused on the health reform battle, but I've argued that Obama's presidency will not be determined by it. Rather, his presidency will be judged by how sharply he breaks with the transgressions of the Bush years, how boldly he rebukes the hate-mongering of radio talkers, how willing he is to adhere to core Democratic principles.
In July I wrote:
Some form of health care reform may pass -- the contours may or may not be in place by the August recess (a deadline that has become a distraction rather than an impetus). Stakeholders across the health spectrum may or may not like the final compromise. Pollsters and pundits and press may or may not express approval. But either way, this is not the defining moment or issue of Obama's presidency.
There will be many more watersheds, many unforeseen events, many highs and lows, many poll dips and spikes. In the end, Barack Obama's presidency will be defined by the extent to which he attempts to right America's (badly adrift) moral ship. Providing universal quality affordable health care is only a part of that process, albeit a significant one.
President Obama just showed us why he commands such admiration and respect. This is the Obama we want to see advancing principles and values that matter to progressives: fairness, justice, equality, peace.
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